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Flight and Descent I.She noticed him on the street, carrying an ornate palanquin with another slave. His head towered above the crowd like a golden rock in the river, and he wore only a light tunic, conspicuous in this time of year. His owner, whose face was hidden behind a tan curtain of fine leather, was scolding him for something in an annoyingly aristocratic voice. But she had no interest in the owner. As she edged closer through the crowd, her eyes were running up and down the stranger's scarred arms and well-defined body.
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- How much? - she asked the man in the palanquin, gesturing towards the stranger.
- Pardon? Oh, that. He's not for sale.
- Such a rare specimen... - she mused. - From Germania, correct?
- Yes. Strong, but dumb and crude, not for such fine ladies as yourself.
She couldn't help noticing the flinch on the stranger's face. So he understands Latin, she concluded. Not as dumb as you think, she thought, but of course didn't say out loud, not willing to risk a higher price.
- This... fine l
Cast Shadows - Part I, Chp. 1I had lived thirty-four years on the Belton estate, and I was still young. My people live long and grow up quickly, so we are ideal for a life of labor. By my fifteenth year, my neck was already worn by the collar. By twenty, I was a valuable part of the farm where I labored for the wealthy old man Giorn Belton. I had a mate, a roe younger than myself, though Master Belton had been more reluctant to grant us the privilege than was his custom. My father is dead in all my youngest memories, but I did not lose my mother until I was nearly an adult. My labor was hard, but I was fit and well cared for. Altogether, I felt I did not have such a bad lot, and so I worked and let myself be content, even after the death of my mother. Without her, the stories were silenced, and dreams of escape and triumph were left to smolder somewhere I did not look. I grew older under the leather and chain.
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The Belton farm was large and wooded, and we did not live badly. Master Belton owned more than fifty pael